Shelling and gunshot are always in earshot, but with the worst of the violence at bay for the time being, the SOS team are doing all they can to support Lugansk's hardest-hit families. A new venture with UNICEF means that we will be able to reach 9,000 people over the coming months.
The fighting may have lost intensity, but Ukraine's war continues to take its toll on Lugansk. In March, a snowstorm brought a three-day power outage, and food prices are still on the up – with basic items like chicken and potatoes double what they were before the crisis.
Despite it all, ordinary people display astonishing resilience. SOS mother Marina remembers March's power cuts. “We are used to it,” she says. “And when you compare the loss of electricity to shooting, it's not really a big deal.
“We are used to saving water so we had water. We had gas, so we could cook food. It was also warm, as we have a wood stove.” People have come to prize the simple things – but this just goes to show the horrors they have endured and for how long.
Never far away
Lugansk may no longer be a warzone, but even now, shooting can be heard every day. “If the floor under your feet shakes, it cannot be far away,” says Marina. “When there is no shooting... we try to convince ourselves that everything is fine.”
Like all six SOS families in Lugansk, Marina moved away last summer when the fighting reached its peak. But she moved back to her home, and moving away again would be a wrench. “I am constantly thinking about leaving Lugansk, but it's difficult to leave... I have not seen my relatives for a year, although I used to visit them once a week. I miss them.”
Though the tears flow down her cheeks, Marina wipes them away with, displaying that formidable resolve once again: “I will survive.”
What are we doing to help?
Though the height of the conflict made work in Lugansk impossible, today we are supporting 351 children in two towns across the region, Starobilsk and Lugansk itself:
- Basic supplies: Food packages and hygiene kits for 40 families
- Emotional support: Counsellors are providing group and individual support to traumatised children
- Healthcare: We are bringing badly needed in medication for families in the region
- Education: We are running classes for children from SOS families and our community programmes so they can catch up on their disrupted education
We are also joining forces with UNICEF, launching a nine-month project intended to deliver high-quality services to 9,000 people so that children's needs are met across the region:
- We will train 15 SOS staff to carry out needs assessment, crsis intervention and violence protection. These are areas that are neglected during crisis situations such as war, when risks are higher
- Establishing centres in four towns in northern Lugansk, where children can find protection and benefit from the opportunity to grow up in a safe family
- Provide psychological support, food packages, hygiene kits and medication to families and children at the highest risk
What can I do to help?
You can help Ukraine's most vulnerable children at this difficult time by donating to our work. Your money will be used to help those most in need, whether that means supporting vulnerable children in our Children's Villages, or helping those in the community.